RUTBAH, Iraq -- On Jan. 20, when the Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) took positions inside the city of Rutbah, a large population center in western Al Anbar Province, Iraq, the town was anything but calm.
Two of the key goals were to remove anti-Iraqi forces from the city, and also to stand up an Iraqi Police force. Facing resistance from a group of armed insurgents, the Marines of the 15th MEU (SOC) succeeded in taking control of the city, and began the process of improving the lives of the citizens of Rutbah.
Marines conduct patrols throughout Rutbah, assessing the capabilities of the locals to improve water and electricity services in the city.
They also have found a group of influential men to be a barometer of the conditions in the town and a voice for the citizens in the city, according to Capt. Scott A. Huesing, commanding officer, E Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
Huesing attributes the success seen thus far to a concerted effort to begin improving the infrastructure in Rutbah and the lives of its citizens.
“There are contracts and projects that are in the works between the 15th MEU and the people of Rutbah”, Huesing said.
The Marines also captured several individuals suspected of fueling the insurgency in Rutbah and the tools they used to conduct their campaign, according to Huesing.
“We’ve been able to seize a lot of weapons caches, illegal weapons and we’ve detained high value individuals in this area,” Huesing said.
The citizens of the city are responding in a positive way to the Marines according to Lance Cpl. Aaron D. Johnson, reconnaissance Marine, B Co., 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.
“After moving into the city permanently it’s gotten a lot quieter,” Johnson said. “We have a lot more feedback from the people coming up and helping us out with the situation, letting us know where the bad guys are.”
An important goal in the stabilization of Rutbah is the establishment of an Iraqi Police force in the city. The recruiting effort of the Marines here has gone surprisingly well compared to other regions in Iraq, according to Huesing.
“We just had (an Iraqi Police) recruitment push of more than 200 volunteers to be Iraqi Police” said Huesing.
The Marines believe the missions of establishing an Iraqi Police force and thus making the city safe for a city council to take a leadership role is also a goal of the citizens of Rutbah, said Lance Cpl. Patrick D. Lindsay, combat engineer, B Co., 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.
“I think they want to see a safe Rutbah as much as we do,” Lindsay said